BANGKOK, Thailand - On 16 March 2020, Manushya Foundation in collaboration with ALTSEAN-Burma, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Thailand, Women’s Fund Asia, the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP) and Seagull: Human Rights, Peace & Development Institute, launched the book “Women’s Voices Across Boundaries”. The book is a collection of stories and glimpses of private life of thirty women from different countries, backgrounds and ethnicities advocating for change and respect of human rights. The book is the result of creative writing workshops previously conducted in different locations in Thailand and Myanmar. The project was made possible thanks to the support from the Leading from the South Program resourced by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives under the Canadian Embassy in Thailand.
The launch was a unique opportunity to discuss key challenges faced by women, as for instance being part of a minority or indigenous group, living in poverty, advocating for lands rights or simply living in a patriarchal society with no opportunities and gender equality.
Even though at the event just six women speakers, the Netherlands Ambassador H.E. Kees Rade, representatives of Manushya Foundation and Altsean-Burma were present due to COVID-19 restraints, the discussion provided to be an opportunity to explore women’s rights and their world, while sharing testimonies about painful experiences the authors have gone through, thus exposing the struggle of women in Thailand and Myanmar. By sharing their powerful stories the Women authors also sent strong messages of inspiration and hopes to all women fighting for their community rights.
Debbie Stothard, Coordinator and founder of ALTSEAN- BURMA
“The title of the book is ‘Women’s Voices across Boundaries’ and by boundaries we did not just mean national boundaries but also boundaries of gender, of sexual orientation, of our work, our class, our identity as indigenous, migrant social minority, different religion or different ethnicity.”
In the opening remarks, H.E. Kees Rade, highlighted the importance of women as frontline defenders of their rights and the novelty of such a publication, where human right priorities and policies come together. The Ambassador confirmed his country commitment, as well as the one of like-minded ones, to defend people who are putting their security and lives at stake to defend human rights, the recognition of the need of a gender lens in every policy, as well as the importance of human rights defenders coming from indigenous groups and religious minorities.
H.E Ambassador Kees Rade, Embassy of the Netherlands
“The Women’s Fund Asia is supporting the publication from a Dutch Programme supporting Voices from the South. Supporting NGOs is very important, but I think the fact that tonight we are able to support twenty-four contributors to this publication is probably more important because they are the people that matter, those who are the first in line in defending human rights.”
Asmah Binti Abdulkareem, author of ‘The Story of Anwar’
“I am very proud to be in this event and about the book. It is the first time I write a story, I usually write human rights reports. This story actually happened in the Deep South where there are a lot of incidents and a lot of people killed. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed and sometimes I cry. I hope this book will help people to understand more about the Deep South situation.”
Kanda, author of the story ‘A Patriot’
“I have been fighting for land rights for more than thirty years. This is the first time that I share my story with people and I hope that everyone can learn more about my work and my community, which is a seafarer indigenous group in the South of Thailand.”
Cing San Nuam, author of ‘Reunion’
“Many people tend to look down on or disparage rather than lend a hand to a widow. And my children are not boys but daughters. I needed to send them to the school in town but didn’t know how I was going to get the money. [..] Should I leave my children in that school and go to work in China? No! I didn’t want to live separately from my daughters. But the whole village pushed me to go and work in China while I was still young.”
Katima Leeja, author of the story ‘From a Lisu Girl to a Human Rights Defender’
“I am really glad to be a part of this book. Usually I don’t have the chance to write so often and I am so glad to be able to read other women’s stories and everyone knows that I am a human rights defender but don’t know what I have been through. People didn't believe I could be a human rights defender after my father died, but I decided not to get married and believe in myself and continue to be a human rights defender.”
Cho Thazin, author of the story ‘Daily life on a bus’
“As we live in Yangon, we usually rely on buses wherever we go and most of the girls and women are being harassed on them. I hope this story can help other people to have awareness about helping and giving a hand to each other.”
Sugarnta Sookpaita, author of ‘Inspiration’
“When I worked in a school I was sexually harassed by the principle and later on I worked in Labour Union and faced much discrimination between men and women. Then, I decided to work with immigrant workers in Chiang Mai because i saw that they cannot access the healthcare system and are facing a lot of inequality. I hope that this story and the other stories in the book will inspire people to fight for equality for women.”
The discussion and testimonies during the event brought unique insights in the lives and rights of women human rights defenders across the region, who are facing several challenges but continue to fight for social justice, equality and the respect of human rights. The book has amplified their voices through direct participation and the possibility to tell their stories, providing ‘Dat with a Soul’. By raising awareness of women’s challenges across the region, Manushya Foundation together with other partners are committed to advancing women’s rights and to a brighter future for gender equality and respect for human rights.
We would like to thank all the authors and the panelists present at the book launch. We are also grateful to all the people who have put effort and commitment to produce the book “Women’s Voices Across Boundaries”. Special gratitude is given to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangkok, ALTSEAN Burma, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific and Seagull: Human Rights, Peace & Development Institute for their collaboration.
Download the English version of the book here
Download the Thai version of the book here
Download the Burmese version of the book here
Access pictures of the Book Launch here